Florida Teen Convicted in British Tourist's Deaths

By: From CNN, Posted by Ralph Hipp
By: From CNN, Posted by Ralph Hipp

SARASOTA, Florida (CNN) -- In a case that drew heavy media attention overseas, a Sarasota, Florida, jury Wednesday convicted a teen in last year's killings of two British tourists.

Shawn Tyson, 17, received two mandatory and consecutive life sentences after being convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, said Dennis Menendez, chief information officer for the 12th Judicial Circuit.

Tyson was tried in the April 2011 shooting deaths of James M. Cooper, 25, of Warwick, and James Thomas Kouzaris, 24, of Northampton. The jury deliberated for about two hours. The defendant showed no emotion when the verdict was read.

Witnesses testified the pair had spent an evening drinking when they got lost and walked into the Newtown housing project in north Sarasota, CNN affiliate WWSB-TV reported. Tyson planned to rob the men, who begged him to let them go, according to witnesses.

The bodies were found with wallets and money, WWSB said.

The defense argued prosecution witnesses who implicated Tyson either were not credible or made deals, according to WWSB. The teen, who was tried as an adult, was not eligible for the death penalty because of his age, Menendez told CNN.

The teen suspect lived near the crime scene, a police report said, and he had been arrested earlier in April on a charge of aggravated assault with a handgun.

The victims were believed to be friends who recently graduated from college and were in Sarasota to celebrate.

British media covering the trial included the BBC and Sky News, according to Menendez. Friends of Cooper and Kouzaris spoke before the sentencing, and their families broadcast videos about the victims.

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